Young unknown breathes life into Lanvin

Bruno Sialelli, a former costume-maker at the Marseille Opera, threaded a child-like wonder and mediaeval touch into Lanvin's show.
Bruno Sialelli, a former costume-maker at the Marseille Opera, threaded a child-like wonder and mediaeval touch into Lanvin's show.PHOTOS: REUTERS, NYTIMES
Bruno Sialelli, a former costume-maker at the Marseille Opera, threaded a child-like wonder and mediaeval touch into Lanvin's show.
Bruno Sialelli.PHOTOS: REUTERS, NYTIMES

PARIS • Clear the runway, Lanvin is back to attempt a smooth landing.

After going through four designers in four years, the oldest Paris couture house stormed back in style on Wednesday with the debut show from new young French creator Bruno Sialelli.

The little-known 31-year-old, whose recent appointment surprised many, lit up the third day of Paris fashion week with an impressive and eclectic collection.

With Hollywood stars Uma Thurman and Asia Argento in the front row alongside Chinese-Korean singer Meng Meiqi, and supermodels Kaia Gerber - the 17-year-old daughter of Cindy Crawford - and Gigi Hadid on the runway, the brand's new Chinese owner, Fosun, clearly wanted to make a splash.

Sialelli obliged by sending out Hadid braless in a sheer top under a pearl pink coat that sent social media and tabloids into a whirl.

But his debut amid the mediaeval and Roman artefacts of the French capital's newly renovated Cluny Museum was much more about clothes than clickbait.

There was poetry aplenty in his dreamy co-ed mix of folkloric fishermen's tops tied with leather straps, duffel coats and silk scarf dresses.

The former costume-maker at the Marseille Opera threaded a child-like wonder into his clothes with prints of St George and the dragon and Babar the Elephant taken from children's storybooks.

Text from fairy tales also made an appearance on boots and bags, with Sialelli, who previously worked for Balenciaga and Loewe, festooning a series of sheer tops and dresses with a pack of embroidering foxes.

Vogue's Suzy Menkes, the doyenne of fashion critics, was instantly won over. "What a fabulous start," she wrote on Instagram. "Fresh from Loewe menswear, Bruno Sialelli makes an instant mark at Lanvin. Colours, mediaeval inspirations for an imaginative but wearable Lanvin show... with colourful coats galore."

Godfrey Deeny of Fashion Network was also swayed, calling it a "sensational debut".

But another heavyweight critic, The New York Times' Vanessa Friedman, was far less convinced.

"There were so many plotlines going on, it was a little hard to follow," she said, bemoaning Sialelli's lack of clarity. "There were lots of influences from other brands you might or might not recognise - though not so many that seemed connected to Lanvin's own history, which is too bad."

Fosun, a conglomerate which also owns French resort operator Club Med, snapped up Lanvin, the oldest continuously operated French label, last year when it had lost direction and was leaking money.

The turmoil began in 2015, with the departure of star designer Alber Elbaz after a 14-year run, during which time the brand became a favourite of the fashion set. The next year, the company recorded its first loss in a decade.

Sialelli told reporters backstage he had gone back into the house's archives and discovered that its founder Jeanne Lanvin was something of an explorer. Which is why he called the show "Mystic Pilgrims" and why he ranged so wide in his influences, from the British Pre-Raphaelite painters to the Aztecs to Breton fishermen.

For a house in desperate need of a big hug, he said he chose the Babar prints because "for every French person who has grown up with Babar, he is hugely reassuring".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2019, with the headline 'Young unknown breathes life into Lanvin'. Print Edition | Subscribe